The Voter Protection Act

May 1, 2010

By Chris Sinicki, 20th District State Representative

April 22 was the last major floor period of this two-year state Legislative session. On this final day, the state Senate decided to finish their business before the Assembly even started their session. That means that all bills not yet passed in the Senate are now “dead,” until they can be reintroduced in January 2011. The Wisconsin Voter Protection Act (VPA) was one such bill, and will not pass in the 2009-10 Legislature.

The VPA is centered on a few main components. The bill would modernize our voter registration system by using secure data-sharing technology. This provision has been tarred and feathered in talk radio’s echo chamber in an irresponsible and misleading way. The fact is, improved uses of technology directed by the VPA would bolster voter protections, streamline inefficient methods of voter registration, and make sure our list of eligible voters is as accurate as possible.

The VPA would allow the forwarding of Department of Transportation (DOT) information to the Government Accountability Board (GAB), which would cross-reference the voter registration list to prevent the registration of ineligible voters. Adding these additional cross-checks will make the ballot box more secure. The bill further protects elections by specifically prohibiting polling places from being located anywhere that would give an advantage to a political party. And, municipal clerks’ offices must still staff polling places.

These cross-checks would enhance the security of voter files. The VPA would also allow voters to use 21st-century technology with online registration. All of these provisions would allow increased access to registration and voting for eligible citizens, while protecting the security of the process.

The VPA would streamline absentee voting, including the adoption of required federal standards for our military personnel. Absentee registration would take place via an opt-in process whereby a voter must request to be placed on the permanent absentee ballot list. The U.S. Post Office would be prohibited from forwarding absentee ballots or delivering them to an old address if someone has filed change-of-address or forwarding request cards. Finally, the VPA proposes to increase penalties for voter fraud and voter suppression.

There’s been a great deal of unnecessary political rhetoric and, I think, fear-mongering about this bill. From my reading of it, ballot security and protecting citizens’ rights are really what it is about.

Chris Sinicki is the state representative for Wisconsin’s 20th state Assembly District, which includes southern Bay View, St. Francis, Cudahy, the airport, and other parts of the south side. Her website is chrissinicki.net and she can be reached at (888) 534-0020 or rep.sinicki@legis.wi.gov.

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